Some homeowners whose roofs declared OK after hailstorm having second thoughts

Reading Eagle

by Ford Turner

In the aftermath of the May 22 hailstorm, more and more roofs in and around Wyomissing are being viewed like boxers who have sustained a series of body blows: they don't look bad from a distance but they may be in rough shape.

It's a bonanza for roofing companies and a conundrum for homeowners. Many say they saw no apparent damage to their shingles but started to have second thoughts as they watched nearby homes get new roofs.

Grant Goeltz, a retired Wyomissing police officer who lives on Birchwood Road in the borough, saw hailstones nearly the size of baseballs pound his property on May 22. Since then, an insurance adjustor has been on his roof and determined it did not sustain enough damage to require replacement.

But a neighbor a few doors away already has a new roof. Goeltz plans to get a contractor to take a look at his.

"I can't begin to get up there. I can't inspect it," said Goeltz, 76. "If I am going to fight with the insurance company, I can't wait all year."

One street away, on Larchwood Road, homeowner Kelly Ravel did not contact her insurance company until her letter carrier and a neighbor prompted her to do so.

Now, her roof is scheduled for an insurance-funded replacement.

"I think there are a lot of people who are afraid to go find out because they don't know if it is worth doing," she said. "We don't know what a damaged roof looks like.

"More and more of those people, though, continue to place their first calls to insurance agents and contractors, seven weeks after the storm.

"It is unheard of, the amount of work," said Carl Rost, general manager of Bachman's Roofing, Building & Remodeling Inc. in Wernersville. "We have had over 2,000 storm-related calls."

A costly storm
A spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Insurance Department said it had no figures to quantify the scope of the Berks hailstorm.

But Tom Scott, a self-employed public adjustor who has worked with local residents to quantify damages, guessed that damages to homes and businesses in Berks - including roofs, siding, windows, gutters, and downspouts - could exceed $200 million.

Rost said that estimate was credible. His company has replaced slate roofs worth $100,000 to $150,000 in and around Wyomissing. Some of the damaged roofs were original construction on houses more than 100 years old."

They hold up a lot better than asphalt shingles, but they still got beat up pretty good," he said.

Some roofs lost to the storm in Wyomissing and West Reading were composed of Ludowici tiles, which are made by hand out of clay. Claims on those roofs, Rost said, have ranged from $80,000 to $180,000.

"Where the hail hit this particular tile, it just annihilated it," he said.

Dennis Bowman, property and casualty operations manager at The Loomis Co., a Wyomissing-based insurance services provider, said two different insurance carriers already have racked up $12 million to $14 million in claims from the storm.

One Wyomissing roof lost to the hail was on the 930 Penn Ave. building that houses Farina Insurance Ltd., owned by David Farina, who has been an insurance agent since 1987.

Claim activity in the past seven weeks has far surpassed anything he has seen in the past 27 years. Insurance checks he has seen range from $3,000 to $28,000, and calls continue to come in.

Part of that, he said, is because "all of a sudden, they are seeing their neighbor getting work done."

Roof integrity lost
That is what happened with Mark Bulcavage, who could plainly see hail scuffs on his burgundy aluminum siding but saw - from the ground - no major problems on his roof.

"The neighbor tipped me off and said, 'Oh, we have damage,' and I said, 'Huh?' " said Bulcavage, who lives on Commonwealth Boulevard in Kenhorst. "Until you go up, you may not see it."

The shingles on Bulcavage's roof were speckled with small pockmarks from hail. At some of those spots, the grainy outer surface of the shingle had been obliterated, exposing the black, asphalt-fiberglass layer below.

Tim Harley, an estimator for Bachman's, said the inevitable freeze-thaw cycle might cause those spots to leak.

"I know this asphalt is already wiped out," he said of Bulcavage's roof.

Bulcavage's insurance claim, including his roof, siding, and other damage, amounted to more than $14,000.

The hail was so severe at Paul Bair's home in Spring Township that individuals stones smashed through the back window of his black 2014 Nissan Altima and then went straight through the shelf below that windshield, winding up in the trunk. The car was totaled.

Concerning his house, he said, "The roof didn't look like it had any damage at all and it didn't leak."

But Bair, who is semi-retired from a construction-related job, knew the lingo when adjustors came to his house. They determined that the roof had to be replaced."The hailstones broke the surface protection," he said. "The shingles won't maintain the integrity of waterproofing. It will eventually leak."

Proceed with caution

Christian Malesic, executive officer of the Home Builders Association of Berks County, said the spreading awareness of roofs that may have been damaged by hail does not mean the situation is urgent.

He pointed out that there have been several heavy rainstorms since May 22, and if a roof has not leaked its replacement is not an urgent matter.

"You can wait until the fall. The quicker you do it, the less time you give yourself for research," he said.

And, he added: "Just because your neighbor has damage does not mean you did. Maybe your big oak tree took the brunt of it."

Wyomissing, West Reading and nearby areas were flooded by door-to-door solicitors for contractors immediately after the storm.

Malesic said the storm has produced more work than can be done by local contractors. He and other officials have cautioned residents to be careful. They suggest asking for references, for the contractor's state-issued registration number and for proof that the contractor is insured.

"This neighborhood was overwhelmed by contractors," Ravel said of her part of Wyomissing, close to the Berkshire Mall. "There were so many fly-by-night people coming by it made you feel creepy."

Contact Ford Turner: 610-371-5037 or